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Impact Of The Hispanic Vote, Role In Elections

Impact Of The Hispanic Vote

November 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

These are excerpts from the study, ``Mobilizing the Vote: Latinos and Immigrants in the 2002 Midterm Election.'' The report was prepared by the National Council of La Raza.

Preliminary Analysis of the 2002 Election:

Based on ''entrance'' poll data, general election returns, and limited exit-poll information cited in numerous newspaper articles, a partial picture of Latino and immigrant groups' performance is starting to emerge.

• Latino candidates of both parties achieved at least two key milestones.

The nation will have the first Hispanic governor in nearly 20 years with the election of Bill Richardson in New Mexico. Moreover, the number ofHispanic members of Congress will increase to the highest total ever in U.S. history, from 21 to 24, having added a Republican from Florida, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Democrats Linda Sanchez of California and Raul Grijalva of Arizona. In addition, California State Representative Dennis Cardoza, who won former Representative Gary Condit's seat and is of Portuguese descent, has announced his intention to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

• Latino and immigrant voters appear to have made adifference in key races.

While a thorough analysis of full election results is not possible without exit polling data, there are several examples of issues and races in which Latino and immigrant voters appear to have exerted their influence. For example, the Rocky Mountain News reported Latino turnout as a major factor in the defeat of Colorado's Amendment 31, an antibilingual education measure. . . .

• Latino voter behavior in the 2002 election provided further evidence that Latinos judge candidates by their record and issue positions, not party affiliation.

There were key examples of Latinos supporting or opposing candidates based on their perceived responsiveness -- or lack thereof -- to the Latino community. In Florida, Republican Governor Jeb Bush, who made significant efforts to reach non-Cuban Latino voters who tend to identify as Democrats, won majority-Democratic precincts with the largest number of Latino voters in several counties. In Texas, where Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla had formerly won by substantial margins, a challenge by former Democratic Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar led to an uncharacteristically close election in that district. . . .

• Candidates perceived as pro-immigrant garnered support from Latino and other pro-immigrant voters.

Conversely, perceptions of hostility or indifference to immigrants cost several candidates support in the Latino community. Pro-immigrant Democrat Tom Vilsack was re-elected as governor of Iowa, with considerable support from the state's small but fast-growing Hispanic community.

In California, Gray Davis' decidedly mixed record on immigrant issues and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon's eleventh-hour embrace of former Governor Pete Wilson, a noted anti-immigrant voice, not only reduced Davis' share of the Latino vote but kept many Latinos away from the polls.

• There are significant opportunities for party realignment and shifts in voting patterns.

Candidates who have invested in learning about and understanding the priorities of the community -- and addressing at least some of its concerns -- do well, regardless of party, as illustrated by the Iowa, Florida and New York gubernatorial races.

Furthermore, young Latino voters are not clearly aligned with any one party. There will be significant numbers of Latinos coming of age and joining the electorate in the next decade. If the current trend of low participation rates among this age group is to shift, it will likely require a combination of targeted mobilization strategies and candidates' willingness to address issues that inspire this segment of the electorate.

Candidates' Immigration Views Influenced Latino Vote

By Rebeca Logan

November 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 EFE NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

Washington -Although immigration was not a prominent issue during the U.S. elections last week, the relationship between the candidates and the immigrant community did influence how Latinos voted, analysts say.

"The strategy used by politicians in past decades of winning office on anti-immigration platforms is now dead," said National Immigration Forum President Frank Sharry, who noted that candidates now make efforts to establish good relations with the immigrant community.

"Although we don't have complete information on how Latinos and immigrants voted in past elections, we do know for certain that these groups of voters will grow and might decide future key elections," said Clarissa Martinez, director of state and local policy for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

According to Martinez, naturalized U.S. citizens - most of whom come from Asia and Latin America - as well as U.S.-born Hispanics "will be a force to contend with" in the 2004 elections, since it is estimated that a million new voters from these groups will go to the polls in the next elections.

"Immigrant voters are going to respond to candidates based on their proposals and past actions, not just on their ability to speak a few words in Spanish or because they translated their campaign material," Martinez said.

Many Latinos voted to reelect Republican New York Gov. George Pataki, Martinez said, because he supports withdrawing the Navy base in Vieques , Puerto Rico as well as granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Colombian immigrants.

On the other hand, although California Gov. Gray Davis did win reelection, his support among Latinos and Asians eroded after he vetoed a law that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver licenses.

Martinez, who cast her first vote in a U.S. election after having to wait for several years to become a citizen, pointed out that many immigrants who are eligible for naturalization are discouraged by the current protracted and difficult filing process.

Despite the victories obtained by a number of Latino candidates in the last election, the Hispanic community has low voter participation and is largely underrepresented in public office.

Although Latinos comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, the exit poll group Voter News Service (VNS) said that Hispanics represented only 6.5 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election.

Larry Gonzalez, director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (Naleo), said grassroots organizations must play a fundamental role in encouraging the community to take part in the democratic process.

"We believe that the key to obtaining voter participation is information plus invitation," said Gonzalez, who noted that many new voters went to the polls because of get-out-the-vote door-to-door campaigns and community events.

La Raza vice president Cecilia Munoz said that although immigration was not the main issue in the last election, immigrant and Latino voters will be watching to see what elected officials do or fail to do concerning immigration.

Now that the Republicans control both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, voters will be able to determine whether President George W. Bush's pro-immigration rhetoric will translate into real immigration reform or whether it is just a pose, Munoz said.

For Immediate Release  


Lisa Navarrete

Clarissa Martinez de Castro

November 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA. All rights reserved. 

Washington, D.C. — The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) released its analysis of the 2002 election and the Latino and immigrant vote, Mobilizing the Vote: Latinos and Immigrants in the 2002 Midterm Election, at a news conference today hosted by the National Immigration Forum. The analysis is a follow-up to a report NCLR released in July entitled Mobilizing the Latino Vote: Tapping the Power of the Hispanic Electorate.

"Our reports were born out of our concern that too much attention has been paid to the phenomenon of candidates courting the growing Latino vote and not enough on the issues that concern Latino voters. What we found in our July report — that Latinos vote on the basis of issues and candidates’ records, not on party affiliation — was confirmed by this election," noted Raul Yzaguirre, NCLR President.

Like everyone else who analyzes election results, NCLR was hampered in its analysis by the lack of exit poll demographic data from Voter News Service. However, data culled together from other exit polls, organizations, and media reports gave evidence of the following:

Latino (and immigrant) voters appear to have made a difference in several key races. For example, the Rocky Mountain News reported Latino turnout as a major factor in the defeat of Colorado’s Amendment 31, an antibilingual education measure. In the closely contested race for governor of Arizona, the Arizona Republic reported that Democratic candidate Janet Napolitano was helped to victory by the 65% turnout in Pima County, home to the second-largest Latino population in the state.

Latino voter behavior in the 2002 election provided further evidence that Latinos judge candidates by their record and issue positions, not party affiliation. There were key examples of Latinos supporting or opposing candidates based on their perceived responsiveness — or lack thereof — to the Latino community, including the races for governor in New York, Florida, and California.

The 2002 election provided evidence that candidates perceived as pro-immigrant garnered support from Latino and other pro-immigrant voters. Conversely, perceptions of hostility or indifference to immigrants cost several candidates support in the Latino community. For example, pro-immigrant Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa was re-elected while anti-immigrant Congressman and Senatorial candidate Greg Ganske lost to Senator Tom Harkin, a Senator with a strong pro-Latino voting record.

There are significant opportunities for party realignment and shifts in voting patterns. Candidates who have invested in understanding and acting on Latino concerns have done well, regardless of party affiliation. Furthermore, young Latino voters are not clearly aligned with any one party.

"These are all findings pertaining to today’s Latino voters. But focusing just on Latino registered voters barely scratches the surface of the potential of the Latino and immigrant vote. There are now 23 states where Latinos make up 5% or more of the voting-age population, but as much as 43% of voting-age Latinos are not yet citizens and only 37% of immigrants are naturalized citizens. We need to turn voting-age Latinos and immigrants into citizens and voters," stressed Yzaguirre.

The report concludes that:

There is substantial room for increasing the participation of Latino and immigrant voters. Multifaceted strategies will be needed in order to realize the potential of these segments of future voters including reducing the citizenship backlogs where millions have languished for months and even years.

The emergence of many new, nonpartisan efforts aimed at mobilizing Latino and immigrant voters is a positive development that should be expanded. The report profiles several such efforts at the local level including civic participation targeted to immigrants in Chicago, New York, Houston, and Providence, Rhode Island, and national efforts aimed at Asian, Arab, and Hispanic Americans.

"In this election, we saw a glimpse of the future, a future where all of our nation’s diverse communities are key players in our nation’s political process. We are not completely there yet, but with investment and commitment from those interested in making democracy work for everyone, and from the communities themselves, it will happen," concluded Yzaguirre. Copies of the report are available free of charge on NCLR’s website.]

Hispanics Played Role In Elections

By Will Lester

November 12, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON –– Heavily courted Hispanic voters in Florida and New York offered solid support to Republican candidates for governor, suggesting the GOP can fare well among Hispanics with the right candidate making a concerted effort to win them over.

But Hispanics followed more traditional voting patterns by strongly backing Democrats in many elections in states west of the Mississippi River, say analysts familiar with ethnic voting patterns.

In races around the country, the lack of nationwide exit polls left party officials bickering about how well the GOP performed among Hispanics, a fast-growing ethnic group targeted by both parties.

"There's a Mexican American western trend that's counter to the Republican wave," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute. "On the East Coast, we're seeing Republican penetration of the Caribbean-based Latino communities."

He pointed to New York, where Republican Gov. George Pataki combined a strong outreach effort with policies intended to attract Hispanic support. In Florida, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush relied on strong support from the Cuban American population and a carefully coordinated outreach effort targeting Hispanics, Gonzalez said.

"There is mounting evidence that Republicans did well with the Puerto Rican vote and the Hispanic vote generally in Florida and New York," said Democratic pollster Sergio Bendixen.

While the two parties differed on the exact margins in those two states, officials on both sides said they thought Pataki got between 40 percent and 50 percent of the Hispanic vote, nearly twice the 25 percent he got in 1998.

Both sides agreed Bush probably got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida, but couldn't agree whether his percentage was somewhere in the 50s or 60s. Republicans have traditionally fared well in Florida because of GOP-leaning Cuban Americans who are now joined by a growing number of Puerto Ricans.

Political parties and analysts are relying this year on scattered sources of data such as exit polling done by organizations in select races, results from heavily Hispanic counties and estimates from campaign workers in the field.

Republican grass roots coordinator Rudy Fernandez said the political parties are having a hard time measuring their exact progress because of the shortage of specific data. "Nobody knows what the numbers are," he said.

–In California, the Velasquez Institute and the Los Angeles Times conducted exit polls that suggested Democratic Gov. Gray Davis got between 65 and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, and Republican Bill Simon got between 19 and 24 percent. Davis won the Hispanic vote by 78-17 in 1998, according to Voter News Service exit polls.

–In Texas, the Velasquez study showed Democratic candidate for governor Tony Sanchez with 87 percent of the vote and Republican Gov. Rick Perry with 10 percent of the Hispanic vote. Perry won the election by a 58-40 margin overall and Republicans say his share of the Hispanic vote was probably closer to a third, based on his performance in heavily Hispanic regions of the state.

–In New Mexico, the governor's race was closely watched because both Democrat Bill Richardson and Republican John Sanchez were Hispanics vying for an open governor's seat in a state with a large number of Hispanic voters. Hispanics made up 36 percent of the vote in 1998.

Exit polls taken for the Albuquerque Journal and KOAT-TV at almost two dozen selected representative precincts in the Albuquerque area suggested Richardson had almost three-fourths, or 72 percent, of the Hispanic vote compared with one-fourth, or 22 percent, for Sanchez. Richardson won the race by a a 17-point margin.

Democrats are estimating they got about two-thirds of the Hispanic vote nationally in 2002, though it's hard to get a firm number based on scattered reports.

Republican spokeswoman Sharon Castillo counters that the GOP doesn't need to win a majority of Hispanics, only to keep "chipping away" at the Democrats' margins.

Democratic national spokeswoman Maria Cardona said she isn't worried that President Bush, who has been popular with Hispanics, will recreate in 2004 the success of his brother and Pataki this year.

"We have two years to continue reaching out to Hispanics," she said. "Once we have a Democratic candidate, we will have someone concrete to speak about the issues."

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